Hats are something that the whole world shares, whether you wear a bowler in England, a tam in Jamaica or a beret in France.
According to the blog, All That is Interesting, the hat became a fashion accessory as opposed to a simple sun-visor when milliners brought about the idea during the early 18th century. One of the first hats to begin this transformation was the French tricorne (3-cornered) hat, worn mostly by military officials. This classic revolutionary look was not only fashionable, but also was designed to act as an umbrella by causing rain to run off the head away from the face. Hats worn by women during this period functioned as indicators of wealth.
100 years later, men began to wear the black top hat, which later transformed into the bowler hat, a slightly shorter and rounded hat. The top hat can be seen today in England, mostly worn at weddings. Women of every class wore bonnets, which had a large brim to contour to the face and offer protection from unwanted onlookers. Jane Austen is notorious for capturing this look in her novels, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.
The most modern hat for men is the fedora, but it was first and foremost fashionable for women when it was introduced in the late 1880s. Fédora was the name of a play written by Victorien Sardou for Sarah Bernhardt. She wore a fedora when she performed as the lead character in 1889, and it soon became the symbol for the women’s rights movement. It didn’t become a fashion statement for men until Prince Edward of Britain wore it in 1924. Since then it has appeared on many media icons like Michael Jackson’s infamous black fedora and Indiana Jones’ brown one.
A dressier descendant of the fedora is the homburg. Whereas the fedora is typically made with wool, the homburg is a felt hat, commonly known for its bound edge and gutter crown (single dent running down the crown). At Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inaugural address in 1953, he broke tradition by dropping the top hat and wearing a black homburg. However, the hat lost its status for a while until Al Pacino wore it in The Godfather. Today, some consider it a more traditional hat than the black fedora.
Perhaps the most common hat exhibited in America is the baseball cap. It is most often associated with baseball players because it was invented to block the sun. The soft cap has a rounded crown and a stiff peak or bill, and is usually made with polyester or wool. When first introduced, the cap was fitted by hat sizes, and it didn’t become the one-size-fits-all until nearly 1980. It has an easily adjustable back, which allows it to be accessible to many different wearers. The “Brooklyn style” cap became popularized in 1900 after the Brooklyn Excelsiors wore it in 1860. The modern hat was established in the 1940s with the addition of latex rubber inside the hat to stiffen it and the elongation of the bill. American baseball players adopted the hat 10 years later.
Evolving from the traditional round brimmed baseball cap, the snapback has become trendy among urban youth and many baseball players. This flat brimmed baseball cap is also more expensive.
One hat that is worn around the world is the knit cap. It is referred to as a stocking cap, toboggan, watch cap, beanie, tuque (in Canada) and bobble cap (with ear flaps). Originally designed to keep seaman and hunters warm, the knit cap has evolved into an all-purpose fashion hat. Traditionally, it is made of wool, but modern manufacturers use synthetic fibers as an alternative.
People have worn this cap since the 18th century, but it varies in its appearance for modern fashions. The classic stocking cap is tapered at the top, and the stretch of the knitting hugs the head, however many prefer to wear it loosely on top of the head. It has either a folded brim or none at all. Some variations have the additions of pom-poms or loose tassels.
There are hats for every walk of life. While they protect people from the UV rays of the sun, the style of hat chosen can display a person’s personality. And even though the name may change across the globe, the hat has always been something that ties people together and represents different cultures.